5 reasons why the Bulls ruled Super Rugby Unlocked
IT seems as if the Bulls don’t want to get carried away too soon, but they are Super Rugby Unlocked champions-in-waiting.
Director of rugby Jake White was not available this week to comment on the fact that his team will be crowned title winners, and will only address the media today after the Sharks-Stormers game was cancelled due to positive Covid-19 test results.
The Bulls are still scheduled to face the Pumas at Loftus on Saturday, but the trophy is in the bag.
Here are five reasons why they have ruled Super Rugby Unlocked …
Jake White as a coach
Now 56, the former Springbok coach has seen it all around the world of rugby. Coaching in Australia, France and Japan has opened up a whole new perspective for White.
He does have a formidable pack in Pretoria, but he has given the backs licence to thrill. The Bulls have varied their play – they have rolled up their sleeves to win physical battles against Griquas and the Lions, while also dazzling in comprehensive triumphs over the Sharks and Stormers.
White hasn’t had much time with what is a fairly new group of players, so he has achieved great success in a short period.
Recruitment of top players like Duane Vermeulen
Duane Vermeulen has been a colossus for the Bulls since returning from
Japan, and despite being a World Cup winner last year, his drive and hunger has inspired the rest of the Pretoria team. But it hasn’t been a one-man show. Lock Jason Jenkins has been unbelievable in the lineouts and tightloose during his loan period from Japanese club Toyota Verblitz. Other new recruits who have made a serious impact are wings Kurt-Lee Arendse and Travis Ismaiel, fullback David Kriel and prop Jacques van Rooyen.
Morne Steyn’s flyhalf play
While Morne Steyn has always been renowned for his goal-kicking, it is the two other major areas of flyhalf play that has propelled the Bulls to new heights.
Even at 36, he has played with a confident demeanour that was never quite there for the Boks, although he did dominate with the boot for the Bulls in Super Rugby before. Steyn has mixed up his play cleverly, with up-and-unders, kicks downfield and into touch, wonderful offloads in the tackle and passes out wide.
The Bulls have not just been all about scoring tries and kicking penalties. They have managed to hold out teams as well. They have conceded the fewest tries (eight), the least points (87) and have the best points differential of plus-70.
And this was achieved against the backdrop of a much changed player group from the one that flopped in the original Super Rugby this year. Apart from White as the director of rugby, they had a new defence coach in Joey Mongalo, while Nollis Marais was brought in as a breakdown specialist.
Strike-force on attack
It is one thing to have a backline that reads Ivan van Zyl, Steyn, Arendse, Cornal Hendricks, Stedman Gans, Ismaiel and Kriel – and it is another thing to actually use them to their full potential.
And that is what the Bulls have done right. Attack coach Chris Rossouw was famous for his little quirky traits as a flyhalf for the Stormers and Western Province, and you can see his stamp on this backline.
They do things differently, with cut-out passes out wide, bursts up the middle, offloads in the tackle, and even a kick-pass thrown in for good measure.